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Film Review: Boys Don't Cry

Thanks to the ever-egalitarian Mr. Murdoch, most people in Ireland and England did not get to watch The Oscars live without A) a decoder and B) coughing up for Cablelink to unscramble Sky Box Office. Depending on your view of the annual Awards Ceremony, this may or may not have been a bad thing. One of the many things the discerning viewer would have missed was the beautiful, willowy figure of Hilary Swank, collecting the award for Best Actress. This might not seem all that striking unless you have only seen her as the haunted, hunted Teena Brandon. So uncanny is Swank's embodiment of boyishness that you might have had to look twice at the girl in the dress at the who accepted the Oscar. A relatively unknown figure in film terms, Swank has appeared as the best friend of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, and in various other American TV series including Beverly Hills 90210.

Hilary Swank as Teena Brandon in 'Boys Don't Cry'Boys Don't Cry tells the disturbing true life story of Teena Brandon, a small-town, petty thief who rejects female gender and chooses to live as a man. After various skirmishes with the police, Teena cuts her hair, changes her name, and Brandon Teena makes for Falls City, Nebraska. Having drifted into a roadhouse bar there, Brandon is befriended by ex-cons John Lotter (Peter Sarsgaard) and Thomas Nissen (Brendan Sexton III). It's in this Falls City nightspot, that Brandon's life changes forever as he meets - and is instantly mesmerised by - the cool and mysterious Lana Tisdel (Chloe Sevigny). The two embark on an erotic adventure full of exploration and danger which will ultimately result in the story's tragic climax.

Director Kimberly Pierce tackles the disturbing story in a gripping and non-sensationalist manner. She paints a vivid picture of small mindedness in a smalltown and the unstable lives of rootless drifters whose days consist of boozy escapism. This side of the story is juxtaposed with the tender love story of Brandon and Lana which transcends gender - even when Brandon is brutally exposed by Lotter and Nissen, Lana still loves her.

Boys Don't Cry is about gender inversion in a hostile, claustrophobic and unaccepting environment. Brandon Teena's case is still so contentious that the film had to be shot in and around Dallas, Texas. Chloe Sevigny is excellent as the free-spirited Lana, trapped by poverty and parochial values. Hilary Swank gives an outstanding performance as the full-lipped, high cheek-boned, but convincingly masculine Brandon Teena. His brutal demise is tackled in a raw, shocking but necessary manner which makes it a film that everyone should see.

Sinead Gleeson

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